Bathrooms at home usually need adaptation if someone who is frail or disabled wants to stay in the house and remain independent. Ensuring bathroom access and safety may require room customisation. Here are our tips on making a bathroom more accessible.
Falls often happen as people get in or out of the bath. Non-slip suction mats or non-skid tub liners or stickers can help prevent falls and provide firm footing.
Grab bars around key standing-to-sitting areas, such as the bath and toilet, are a must for safety. These bars should be strong and installed according to the manufacturer’s directions for firm and solid support. Badly installed bars will not support a person who loses balance.
Various types of bars and poles are available. The type, number, and positioning of supports depend on:
- The wall space around the bath;
- The wall structure;
- The plumbing arrangements; and
- The disability of the person using the bath.
Two kinds of grab bars are often needed:
1. For use in getting in and out of the bath from a standing position
2. For use when lowering and raising the body to and from a seated position.
U-shaped bars can be installed vertically or horizontally to a wall, while horizontally placed support bars are best for lowering and raising the body to and from a sitting position in the bath. Diagonally placed grab bars are not recommended because the hand may slide; and if footing is not secure, falls are more likely to occur.
BATH AND SHOWER SEATING
A variety of portable seats, chairs, and benches are also available if sitting in the bath is difficult or impossible. Inside-the-tub chairs with backs for greater comfort are also available on the market today. An inside/outside transfer bench with adjustable legs allows the person to sit on the bench that extends outside the tub then slide to the inside of the tub.
Any chair or bench must have non-slip rubber tips and should be safe and comfortable. When using this type of seats in the tub, a hand-held shower head helps with bathing.
The standard 15- to 17-inch height of toilet seats creates a problem for many people, especially those with arthritis, hip, knee or back problems. Elevating the seat 5-7 inches more will give better leverage in regaining a standing position.
There are several types of removable and permanently fixed raised toilet seats available in stores. For a more permanent raised toilet, a plumber can put the stool on a wooden platform made to fit the toilet bowl base. If you are building a new bathroom, consider a wall-hung toilet that can be hung at any height.
A portable bidet may be attached to any standard toilet bowl. It is electrically powered with a mechanism for spray washing with warm water and drying with a flow of warm air. This promotes independence for persons with very limited hand/arm functions.
If you have a physical limitation, we recommend you consult a healthcare professional to help you select and recommend placement of grab bars and other accessories for safety in the bathroom. If you are unsure of your wall structure, or do not have proper tools or skills, we suggest you hire a professional to install and/or make the new adaptations.
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CHERYL WEISZ is a private general practitioner of medicine living in the Phillipines. She has been writing for Doability since 2009, showing people with limited mobility how to achieve their independence through her articles on diseases, disability and elderly care, disability prevention, health and safety tips, pain management, and information on mobility equipment and products.